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Psalm 1, in Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms

Psalm 1, in Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Royal MS 5 D.iii

Item number: f.1r

Length: 39.3

Width: 27

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

St Augustine of Hippo (353 -430) was one of the most important early Christian writers. Among his many books, his commentary on the psalms was one of the most widely copied and quoted during the middle ages. Augustine wrote a separate commentary on each psalm, some of which are lengthy, all together making for a very long book. Often manuscripts of it were bound as two or three volumes--as are modern printed editions. This manuscript is Volume One of a copy that belonged to Rochester cathedral priory. It probably served multiple purposes: for reading from during the daily prayer services (divine office), as a source when composing sermons, for theological study and personal contemplation.

In medieval psalters, the most highly decorated page is usually the one for the beginning of Psalm 1 ('Beatus vir', 'Blessed the man'), and in this manuscript the decoration on the first page imitates that of psalters. To begin, Augustine quotes the psalm's first verse. The scribes and artists (probably at Rochester) created a splendid letter B made of dragons attacked by beautiful lions--symbols of David, who was believed to have written the psalms. Above it, the coloured letters identify the author and text ('Part I'). In the lower margin, an erased inscription once identified the manuscript as the property of the cloister of Rochester cathedral.

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